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TRCP’s outgoing water policy director looks back on two landmark victories bearing the unmistakable fingerprints of hunters and anglers
If you ever attend a Nationals game in Washington, D.C., leave by the southeast gate, walk through Diamond Teague Park—named for a young man who devoted much of his life to restoring the Anacostia River before his tragic death—and look for the historic Old Pump House. This building used to pump water to the plant that provides power to the U.S. Capitol before the Anacostia River became too polluted and clogged with debris. The pump house is now home to the Earth Conservation Corps, which is restoring the Anacostia River and improving the lives of at-risk youth in Washington, D.C. On May 27, 2015, it was the site of one of our community’s most important victories for clean water and one of the high points of my career in conservation.
A New Era of Clean Water Protection Begins
On that day last spring, sportsmen gathered with some of the most important D.C. water officials, small business leaders, and even one beer maker, to celebrate the signing of the final rule to improve Clean Water Act protection for trout streams and duck habitat. Once this decision is fully implemented, it will mean more cold clean water for anglers and fewer drained or polluted wetlands.
The fight for better clean water protection had been a long time coming, a battle that stretched back 15 years. And, to borrow from one of Theodore Roosevelt’s most famous speeches, some of the credit belongs to the sportsmen “in the arena” for this fight. You could see their fingerprints on the final product.
Ms. Sheppard Goes to Washington
Nearly a year later, I sat in an auditorium at the White House watching TRCP’s Mia Sheppard tell President Obama’s team why cold, clean streams are important to her, her family, and her livelihood as a fishing guide. Drought is hurting rivers in the West, including the Deschutes River, and its native redside trout, right in her backyard. She told the president about the Deschutes and found herself getting choked up as she told the crowd, “When fish lose, we lose.”
Mia came to the meeting armed with 20 recommendations developed by sportsmen that will make our rivers and streams more resilient to the effects of drought and our fish and habitat healthier as a result. By the end of the day, more than half of these recommendations were part of official government policy. Sportsmen again had gone into the arena and left their mark.
TRCP was formed in the belief that when sportsmen speak with one voice, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. Four years ago, the TRCP began to focus on water resources with that same belief. Jim Martin, the retired conservation director at Pure Fishing and a TRCP champion, once said, “The most effective protections [for sustainable fisheries] are embodied in policy and…law.” Donning a suit and tie to walk the halls of Congress may not be as exciting as our days on the water or in a duck blind, but sportsmen must remain in the policy arena to protect what we love. The events at the White House and on the banks of the Anacostia River show how much we’ve accomplished already.
I came to TRCP at the beginning of this great chapter for our water resources, and I’ve seen the unique impact sportsmen can have on policy. As I prepare to move on to another conservation leader, The Nature Conservancy, I’ll be taking the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt with me, along with his words: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
After more than three years with the organization, I’m confident that sportsmen can count on the TRCP to do the right thing. So I move on to the next chapter in my conservation story believing that Roosevelt would be proud of what we’ve accomplished for water. It’s only the beginning.
News for Immediate Release
Aug. 15, 2016
Contact: Kristyn Brady, 617-501-6352, email@example.com
New visual data will help sportsmen, plus state and federal agencies, prioritize the conservation needs of Arizona’s favorite hunting and fishing areas
PHOENIX, Ariz. — When it comes to telling others about their “secret” spots, hunters and anglers are famous for holding their cards close to their game vests and wading jackets. Yet, more than 1,200 Arizona sportsmen have willingly tipped their hands to identify their favorite destinations on a map. It’s all part of a national initiative to conserve fish and wildlife habitat while protecting and improving public access for hunting and angling.
The statewide effort was recently completed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), in cooperation with Arizona sportsmen’s groups. Maps from the Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project are now available to the public, as well as state and federal agencies.
“Some of the most valued public hunting and fishing areas in Arizona are at risk because of deteriorating habitat conditions, limited access and increased development pressures,” said John Hamill, TRCP’s field representative in Arizona. “With the help of sportsmen, we’ve been able to pinpoint lands that are cherished for their hunting and fishing values, so that land managers can prioritize habitat conservation and the enhancement of public access in these areas.”
Maps for 15 species or species groups—including elk, mule deer, whitetails, pronghorns, bighorn sheep, turkeys, quail, doves, waterfowl, predators, and fish—are now available on the department’s website. One each map, the most highly valued areas are in red and orange, moderately high-valued areas are in yellow, and less highly valued areas are in green. The maps allow the user to view, pan, and zoom in or out to explore the most highly valued hunting and angling locations in Arizona. The species are also ranked for popularity based on the survey responses.
While the maps will be useful to sportsmen, they were largely developed to guide conservation efforts. The maps have been assembled in a geographic information system (GIS), where they can be overlaid with maps of critical habitat, land ownership, and other data.
The resulting maps will provide important and previously unavailable data to state and federal agencies for the following purposes:
– To balance other land uses with the needs of fish, wildlife, hunters and anglers.
– To identify areas where public access needs to be maintained or improved.
– To identify areas needing stronger conservation efforts, or expansion of hunting and angling opportunities.
– To identify key high-use areas warranting special conservation strategies, because of their value to sportsmen.
– To justify actions and funding requests aimed at conserving highly valued wildlife habitat, and hunting and fishing areas.
Last fall, a random sampling of 7,500 Arizona hunting and fishing license holders were mailed a postcard inviting them to participate in the survey. Those who received a postcard were directed to a specially designed website where they could highlight on a map their most valued hunting and fishing destinations. The survey also included questions about why sportsmen identified a particular area as being important. The most highly valued areas are typically those that offer the greatest chance of harvesting game, contain trophy-size game or fish, are closest to home, or have traditionally been the area that sportsman or family has hunted or fished. The results demonstrate the importance of maintaining quality fish and wildlife habitat and providing readily available public access for hunting and angling.
The Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project is a national initiative that was launched in 2007 by the TRCP. The project has been endorsed by the Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation, an alliance of more than two dozen Arizona sportsmen’s groups.
Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.
Thanks to those of you in #PublicLandsProud nation who shared their best photos of fun summer days on public lands these past two months! There were some really impressive submissions, and it was the tough job of our guest judge, outdoor photographer and fishing guide Marty Sheppard, to ultimately select a winner. After much deliberation, here are the winning shots:
First place: Instagrammer abeblair
Marty Sheppard: This photo is amazing. It captures the beauty of camping under the stars; everyone should experience as much as possible. Without access to public land, it would be hard to get away from the hustle and bustle of all the light pollution of metropolitan areas. Thank you, Abe, for your photographic dedication of capturing these iconic scenes.
First runner-up: Instagrammer jlrastonishingphotos
MS: This photo gives me a great summertime feeling, playing fetch with our public land companions. Great depth of field with action and excitement that only a dog can bring to your day.
Second runner-up: Instagrammer barebowhunter
MS: This photo gets me pumped for what’s right around the corner and a deep appreciation for the endless miles of backcountry right outside my door.
Submit your best national parks pics this month as we celebrate the National Park Service centennial and show us what it means to be #PublicLandsProud for these national treasures. We still have two prize packages to give away with killer gear from Costa, Yeti, Simms, Orvis, Old Milwaukee, Meateater, Buck Knives, and First Lite. Keep showing us what makes you #PublicLandsProud, and we’ll continue to protect your access to quality fish and wildlife habitat.
In the 1940s and 50s, “a struggling, odorous pair of live beavers” could actually help improve fish and wildlife habitat—the trouble was transporting them
This is the story of a beaver named Geronimo and a simpler time, when ingenuity led to rodents parachuting into Idaho’s backcountry.
Yes, I just wrote that sentence, and every word is true.
As modern-day sportsmen and women, we’ve become accustomed to stocked lakes and waterways and heard many tales of capturing and collaring big game animals to study and improve their odds. But, for my money, no wildlife management story is better than Geronimo’s.
It begins in the 1940s, when an abundance of beavers in some areas prompted depredation concerns. According to an article from Idaho Fish and Game employee Elmo W. Heter, the agency was faced with a bevy of beavers and decided to transplant some of the toothy critters into the backcountry. The accepted method at the time was to capture them, truck them to a trailhead, and then pack them by mule train to some unoccupied lush meadow. There, the beaver equivalent of Adam and Eve would be released to do beaver things and get busy making more beavers.
“Beavers usually set up colonies, multiply, and establish important fur-bearing populations,” Heter wrote. “In addition, they do much toward improving the habitats of game, fish, and waterfowl and perform important service in watershed conservation.” The problem with trucks and mules, however, was that beavers died in large numbers because they weren’t suited for the heat of summertime travel.
“Older individuals often become dangerously belligerent,” Heter wrote. “Rough trips on pack animals are very hard on them. Horses and mules become spooky and quarrelsome when loaded with a struggling, odorous pair of live beavers.” (Let me stop here and point out that the problem with present-day Fish and Game reports is that they don’t use enough words like ‘belligerent,’ ‘quarrelsome,’ and ‘odorous.’)
Heter didn’t explain how the department ultimately turned to parachutes—I picture a meeting of bigwigs with diagrams, a wading pool, and model beavers—but in 1948, airdropping the little critters in a backcountry blitzkrieg seemed to be the idea with most promise. (I want to stop here, again, and call upon the mental image of elk and deer on the ground, watching an aerial raid of ruffian rodents.)
Fish and Game officials first experimented with attaching the parachutes to willow boxes, but that effort was abandoned because of fears that the beavers would eat their way out of their airborne box at the most inopportune time. Heter’s crew eventually made a box that broke apart when it hit the ground. But would the beaver die in the process? That was an interesting question for sure.
Enter Geronimo. To test proper drop heights and box designs, Fish and Game officials dropped the male beaver “again and again.”
“Each time he scrambled out of the box, someone was on hand to pick him up,” Heter wrote. “Poor fellow! He finally became resigned, and as soon as we approached him, would crawl back into his box ready to go aloft again.” With Geronimo’s help, Fish and Game learned that the best launch height was between 500 and 800 feet, because it allowed the chute to open properly and still maintain some accuracy in placing the bewildered beavers in a selected meadow.
That year, Fish and Game dropped 76 beavers in the backcountry. There was only one fatality, a beaver that “jumped or fell” from his box at about 75 feet. A year later, observations showed that all airborne transplants were successful. “Beavers had built dams, constructed houses, stored up food, and were well on their way to producing colonies,” Heter wrote.
He said the transportation method showed a marked savings over mules; he claimed they could drop four beavers for $30.
Although we don’t know how many beavers were ultimately transplanted via parachute—or why and when the program was stopped—Heter did say that Geronimo was treated well for his efforts. He “had a priority reservation on the first ship into the hinterland, and three young females went with him,” Heter wrote.
To read Heter’s full account and see a diagram of the beaver boxes, click here. For archive video footage of parachuting beavers, click here. And for the latest on today’s (more sophisticated) conservation initiatives in Idaho and across the West, keep following the TRCP.
Much of this story appeared in the Idaho Falls Post Register on Dec. 11, 2014 (read the original here), but it never gets old.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More